Searching through thousands of stored e-mail messages in Apple’s Mail can be time-consuming and frustrating. The Spotlight feature in the upcoming OS X 10.4 (Tiger) will eventually facilitate this task—until then, John Seward’s MailSteward 2.2, like John Carlsen’s eMessage Archiver 4.0.2 and Moth Software’s MailArchiver X, can provide a searchable e-mail archive. The program stores Mail messages in a database for fast, flexible searching, but it’s limited in many ways.
One limitation is that MailSteward supports only POP (Post Office Protocol, a common e-mail standard) and .Mac accounts (as well as messages saved in local mailboxes). The developer plans to add support for IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol, which stores messages on the server). In our test on a 1GHz PowerBook G4, MailSteward took more than an hour to store approximately 18,500 messages. And each time you add a message to the searchable data-base, MailSteward goes through the entire e-mail archive as it updates—a lengthy, cumbersome process.
A further limitation is that MailSteward doesn’t archive attachments (the developer says that support for attachments is coming). Even worse, MailSteward stores and displays only plain text. It strips the formatting from Rich Text messages, and HTML messages without a plain-text alternative display as HTML code, which makes certain messages illegible.
MailSteward’s strongest features are its searching speed and flexibility: you can comb through even a huge database quickly by searching for terms in the To, From, and Subject fields and the message body (or any combination thereof), by choosing a date range, and/or by employing a custom search string (if you know SQL).
Macworld’s Buying Advice
MailSteward 2.2 is an unpolished implementation of a good idea. POP users with a moderate number of plain-text messages will find that the new searching capabilities are helpful, but the program offers other users little reason to buy it.